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Belgium in Brief: Did You Deserve Your Company Car?

Credit: Belga

A damning report from Belgium’s Court of Audit has revealed that an overwhelming majority of company cars handed to government and public service employees in Brussels last year should not have been given out.

For the 2019 fiscal year, 105 company cars had been handed out to employees who, due to their status or contract, were not eligible to receive a company vehicle, but this is just the latest in the ongoing story of the mass of company car in Brussels. Read more here.

Somewhat of a status symbol in certain Brussels circles, the company car has been a topic of discussion over the years – with some companies going so far as to pay employees to give them up, while numbers continue to rise.

Last year, companies in Belgium registered a record number of 315,557 new cars, which is almost 22,000, or 7% more than in 2018, exceeding the 300,000 mark for the first time in the Belgian company car market.

For the fifth year in a row, the share of company cars in car sales rose, from 53% to 57% last year. They just keep going.

But that’s just one of the stories from the past 24h. Let’s see what else happened.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:



1. Belgium ‘still a long way’ from herd immunity

Belgium is still a long way from herd immunity against the coronavirus, even with the growing number of infections at the moment, health officials said during a press conference on Monday.

As the number of coronavirus infections in Belgium has climbed to an average of over 15,500 cases per day over the past week, more people will also have built up antibodies against the virus after this wave.

According to the latest data, which Sciensano reported in September, between 5% and 8% of the population had built up antibodies against the virus, said virologist Steven Van Gucht. Read more.

2. Practical Measures: Lockdown hits real estate, evictions and football

Belgium’s latest coronavirus measures may have only come into effect late on Sunday, but Monday already saw some practical implications of the lockdown come to light, as different sectors adjust to the new rules.

So from face mask checks and real estate to football and concerts, here’s the first – and likely not the last – practical impact roundup of the coronavirus measures in Belgium. Read more.

3. Belgian hospitals reach record high of over 7,000 Covid-19 patients

For the first time since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, a total of more than 7,000 Covid-19 patients are admitted to hospital, according to Sciensano’s latest figures on Tuesday.

In total, 7,231 coronavirus patients are currently admitted to hospital, which is 408 more than yesterday. Of those patients, 1,302 are in intensive care, 79 more than the day before. Patients on a ventilator number 697 – 26 more than yesterday. Read more.

4. One ‘cuddle contact’, no visits: how Belgium’s new contact rules work

As Belgium went into lockdown again on Monday, people’s close social contacts were further reduced to only one person outside of their households.

“The most important rule remains the limiting of our close contacts, or our so-called ‘cuddle contacts.’ The success of our fight against the virus stands and falls with this,” virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht said.

“A cuddle contact is someone you talk to while physically close, someone you eat or drink with, or someone you hug,” he clarified, adding that this is someone who does not live in the same household as you. Read More.

5. Brussels’ intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients are full

The hospitals in the Brussels-Capital Region have reached their maximum capacity of intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients, according to the Brussels health inspectorate.

“All intensive care units in Brussels are at their maximum capacity,” Inge Neven of the Brussels Health Inspectorate told VRT. “This means that when new patients arrive, there should automatically be a transfer from Brussels to one of the other hospitals in Belgium, or abroad.” Read more.

6. Antwerp tightens security in Jewish quarter after deadly Vienna shootout

Security has been tightened in Antwerp’s Jewish quarter following a deadly shootout in Vienna, which took place near a synagogue and has been described as a terror attack.

A spokesperson for Mayor Bart De Wever confirmed that additional security details had been deployed in the area near the train station inhabited by a tight-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

The decision comes after several gunmen opened fire in different locations in central Vienna on Monday evening in a suspected terror attack in which at least four people were killed and which Chancellor Sebastian Kurz described as “repulsive.” Read more.

7. FlixBus suspends services between Belgium, Germany and France

FlixBus, which operates coach routes, is suspending nearly all of its services between Belgium, Germany and France due to the coronavirus crisis.

“We are adapting our network based on national and regional requirements,” the company said on its website. “Depending on the different countries, this means for us to temporarily reduce or hibernate network.” Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times